Vice President Dick Cheney says that the Iranian people “are living in a climate of fear and intimidation”:
“With secret police, arbitrary detentions, and a hint of violence in the air. In the space of a generation, the regime has solidified its grip on the country and grown ever more arrogant and brutal toward the Iranian people. Journalists are intimidated. Religious minorities are persecuted. A good many dissidents and freedom advocates have been murdered, or have simply disappeared. Visiting scholars who’ve done nothing wrong have been seized and jailed.”
Consider the case of French-Iranian filmmaker Mehrnoushe Solouki. Ms. Solouki went to Iran in December 2006 to make a film about the burial traditions of Iran’s religious minorities.
In a telephone interview with Radio Farda, Ms. Solouki said that in the course of her work, she happened upon a section of Khavaran cemetery south of Tehran which was “totally different” from other parts she had seen. It was the section where some of the thousands of political prisoners summarily executed by the Iranian clerical regime in 1988 were interred in a mass grave.
In February of this year, police stormed Ms. Solouki’s Tehran apartment. She was arrested and thrown into Evin prison. After a month in Evin, Ms. Solouki was released, but she has not been allowed to leave Iran. On November 17 she was questioned by a judge at a closed-door hearing. A trial was postponed to a yet-to-be determined date. Reportedly she is being charged with the so-called crime of intending to spread propaganda against the Iranian government. Ms. Solouki says she feels as if she is in limbo, “between life and death.”
Others who have gone to Khavaran cemetery have also been arrested. They include six people who took part in an August ceremony marking the nineteenth anniversary of the “prison massacres” of 1988. A seventh person, twenty-two-year-old Masoumeh Mansouri was arrested after making inquiries about her father, who had attended the commemoration ceremony. All seven are being held in Evin prison.
The Iranian clerical regime seems frightened of both the dead and the living. But as Vice President Cheney says, “The Iranian people have every right to be free from oppression. . .and tyranny in their own country.”